London drivers 'should be charged 8p per mile during rush hour,' says leading City economist

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Drivers in London should be charged 8p a mile to use the capital’s disastrously clogged roads with Uber-style “surge pricing” during the rush hour, a leading City economist said today.

Doug McWilliams, deputy chairman of the respected Centre for Economics and Business Research, makes the proposal in a “ground breaking” policy paper published today called “How to Abolish Traffic Jams.”

He said it was time to “break this deadlock” after studies showed that Londoners spend an average of more than 100 hours a year stuck in congestion.

The paper suggests that every vehicle in Britain could be fitted with a GPS based tachograph – or “black box” – that would automatically deduct payments by 2027.

It also argues that trips would have to be booked in advance so that drivers could decide when to make their journeys to avoid rush hour “surge pricing” when the fee could rise to as much as 12p a mile.

For a typical driver clocking up around 10,000 miles in a year this could mean an annual bill of at least £800 and possibly more than £1000 if they drive during the peaks.

Mr McWilliams said the plan could raise an extra £45.9 billion in annual revenue for investment in roads and better cycling and pedestrian routes and still leave a huge surplus for the Treasury. 

He also advocates handing over control of Britain’s entire road network to a semi-independent National Road Authority.

He said current “half hearted but often irritating attempts to cut car useage” such as London’s congestion charge had largely failed.

For example the congestion charge, originally introduced by Ken Livingstone in 2003, has failed to improve average driving speeds leaving motorists “feeling they did not benefit and that it had been a scheme to raise revenues for other purposes.”

Average daytime driving speeds in central London dropped to just 7.8 mph last year.

Mr McWilliams said:”We believe that apart from making roads less congested, cleaner and safer our approach sholud boost GDP by up to 3 per cent.

“This prize is sufficiently large that we ought to be working hard to eliminate the obstacles to the solution so that these huge benefits to road users and non-road users can be achieved.”

The proposal was welcomed by environmental campaigners. Bridget Fox of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “It’s good to see more and more people recognising that some kind of road user pricing is going to be part of the solution to growing levels of traffic and pollution. 

 “But taking roads out of local control would be a backwards step. Instead we need integrated local transport systems that join up public transport, cycling and walking, and create safe, attractive places to live and work.”

Former Top Gear presenter Quentin Willson, now a spokesman for the FairFuelUK Campaign, said: “The ancient fuel duty model is broken and doesn’t deliver value to consumers, industry or society.

“This CEBR report is internationally ground-breaking as it shows how the UK can provide more reliable journeys, less congestion and cleaner air.  It’s time for strategic thinking rather than patching up potholes.”

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